The Jesus of Suburbia is a lie.
– Green Day, Are We The Waiting?
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
– Jesus, Matthew 10
I rediscovered the band Green Day about two years ago when my son received the Green Day Rock Band game as a gift. While I listened to them in college (classics like Dominated Love Slave come to mind!) I drifted away from them later on in life. With the coming of Rock Band and Guitar Hero (wife was usually vocals, son was usually drums, and I was usually shredding on guitar), though, we came to really like the newer songs on the disc. We bought their songs via iTunes, and they’re still a staple on my playlists.
One of the songs from their American Idiot release has the line referenced above: The Jesus of Suburbia is a lie. Now, I know that line doesn’t refer to Yeshua ben Yosef (Jesus), but it does fit nicely with my meditation on the Scripture passage referenced above. How so, you ask? 🙂
I’ve noticed a distinct trend (especially in many conservative Christian churches and areas) – we want a Jesus that tells us to be nice to others, to follow the rules, to be good, and to go to Church. We have denominational leaders who enforce those stereotypes. I recognize that, especially when working with children, we need a “baseline” of a loving, caring, forgiving Jesus they can identify with. But as adult followers, it’s good for us to wrestle with some of his harder sayings.
Case in point: the quote above. We have Matthew’s gospel literally telling us that conflict is inevitable in homes and lands that focus on Jesus. For such a family-centric faith and culture, this must have come as a shock. It isn’t something that religious authorities would tell people. The Jews of Jesus’ time were hospitable to a fault, straining to outdo themselves in hospitality. But then, as now, family ties ran stronger. If a stranger and your father both needed assistance, your father would, of course, come first. If your sister and a stranger both needed money, your sister came first. If a neighbor and your distant uncle both needed to borrow your wagon, your distant uncle came first. There was an ever-widening circle of people who took precedence over others – it was considered the natural order of things.
There was a social contract active as well – the wealthy and socially elite were accorded much more respect than commoners. Then, as now, wealth and social prestige meant that there was also an ever-widening circle of influence and respect – the high priest or the king were at the top, and lepers and other sinners were at the bottom. A good Jew would help the High Priest before they helped a prostitute. They would serve males before females. They would accord much more respect to the patriarch of a clan than to a young man just growing his first beard. All of this was considered the way things were.
But Jesus came along and challenged the way things were. Ties of blood weren’t important. Social status wasn’t important. Wealth and power weren’t important. Everyone was to be treated equally, regardless of gender, age, wealth, religion, geographic region, or social status. Why? Because everyone was equal in the eyes of God.
Talk about your basic revolutionary stance! It’s good news for the poor, the downtrodden, the “sinners” – if everyone is supposed to be equal, then they’re on even footing with Kings and Priests! But it isn’t good news to those used to power and prestige. If everyone gives you respect, asks you out to dinner, buys you expensive gifts, and looks to you for the latest fashion trends, this is horrible news indeed! How are you to show your superiority? 🙂
We’re still stuck on this basic point now. I see it every time an adult is accorded more respect than a child, just because “this is an adult.” When priests are accorded more respect than laity because “he’s a priest.” When the very wealthy or very powerful are accorded more respect because of their clothing or car or position or name. Any time that a person of a certain race, religion, gender, age, social status, political party, etc. is made to feel less than . . . especially by a follower of Jesus – we’ve not yet taken to heart Jesus’ revolutionary idea that everyone . . . everyone . . . is equal. To treat them as any less is surely and definitely a sin.
Blessings & Peace,